The Space of Research Topics in Economics: Scientific Position-Takings and Individual Positions in Swiss Economic Science

Thierry Rossier, Pierre Benz, Anton Grau Larsen, Kristoffer Kropp

Publikation: Bidrag til tidsskriftTidsskriftartikelForskningpeer review


Within the Social Studies of Economics, research has been dominated by case-oriented approaches. In this article, we propose and demonstrate the value of adding a quantitative, field-theoretical approach. Specifically, we outline a perspective for studying economics as a social field, focusing on the homology between research topics and the resources and characteristics of researchers. We specifically attend to the Swiss case, entailing integration of this highly internationalised discipline within national elite networks. Our study draws on a combination of two data sources: the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF), which provides abstracts of all projects funded since 2008, and the Swiss Elite Database, which contains extensive prosopographical data on all tenured economics professors employed at Swiss universities. In the first analytical part of the study, we construct the space of research topics based on 637 abstracts using Latent Dirichlet Allocation, a topic modelling technique. We identify a set of recurring topics, using multiple correspondence analysis to project these topics into a geometric space, thereby identifying three main dimensions structuring the space of the topics: (1) financial markets versus labour and behaviour economics, (2) macroeconomics versus microeconomics and (3) public economics versus labour economics. In the second part of the study, we map the most frequently used terms in relation to the profiles of the 647 applicants (including 156 economics professors). Our findings reveal a homology existing between the space of topics and the space of individual positions. Unlike microeconomics topics, macroeconomics topics are linked to scientific and academic prestige. Other individual properties and resources, such as those related to public expertise, corporate networks or gender are linked, respectively, to the study of state and public concerns and market surveillance, corporate governance, and gendered inequalities in the workplace. This article provides an original quantitative and computational approach that opens up new and promising research avenues for expanding the Social Studies of Economics and the history of economic thought.

Udgave nummer2
Sider (fra-til)427-473
Antal sider47
StatusUdgivet - 2023


  • field theory
  • multiple correspondence analysis
  • social studies of economics
  • space of topics
  • switzerland
  • topic modelling
  • topics

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